Mathew Galvao ’17, Staff Writer
The Merrimack men’s ice hockey team split its weekend series against Hockey East rival University of New Hampshire (UNH) last weekend. These were the first meetings all year for the two schools, and the series had playoff implications for both teams in the final weekend of the regular season.
On Friday night, the Warriors played what was one of their best overall efforts of the season, taking pucks and bodies to the net on three of the four goals that they scored in a 4-2 win over the Wildcats in the first of a back-to-back weekend series at Lawler arena.
The Warriors got off to a great start in Friday’s game with both teams getting into it physically. Though there was a lot of action in the first, the period ended scoreless. Heading into the second period, the Warriors looked to break the ice and managed to do so when junior defenseman Justin Mansfield drove hard to the net and jammed home a rebound to put Merrimack up 1-0 six minutes into the second period. Just five minutes later, sophomore Brian Christie notched a power play goal to put the Warriors up by two.
Headed into the third period, Merrimack looked to close out the game and take its third win in Hockey East this year. By the middle of the third UNH had tied the game 2 and were looking for the go-ahead goal. Just one minute after UNH scored their second goal, Warrior’s junior Quinn Gould tallied the Warriors eventual game-winner. Classmate Connor Toomey would add an empty net goal in the final minute of the period to ice the game for the Warriors and give them their third victory in Hockey East.
Coach Mark Dennehy felt the team really got back to how they want to play.
“It was,” Dennehy agreed, when asked if the team’s play matched its game plan. “I thought we did a pretty good job of getting pucks and bodies to the net. It was one of our more positive efforts. We kept trudging. There was a lot of energy on the bench. They didn’t need much coaching from me which is nice, because when they start coaching themselves that means some of it is starting to sink in.”
On Saturday night the Warriors honored their six seniors: captain Jordan Heywood (D), assistant captains Mike Collins (F), Rhett Bly (F) and Brendan Ellis (D), defenseman Tom McCarthy and goaltender Sam Marotta. All six would be playing their final game at Lawler Arena.
Dennehy commented on the lasting legacy of this senior class.
“They are each individually wonderful people,” he said. “They’ve invested three and a half years to Merrimack hockey and so the coaching staff is grateful in that regard. But they all bring something to the table. We’re thankful they chose Merrimack and they each left an indelible mark.”
Unfortunately, UNH spoiled the senior night festivities when they took the 5-2 win to defeat Merrimack in their last home game of the season.
The Warriors got the early lead in the first when Gould scored his second goal of the weekend. However, things would not go well for the Warriors in the second period as UNH scored three goals – two in less than 10 seconds — in the second to give themselves a 3-1 lead.
The third would see the UNH add two more goals but Merrimack add one of their own with UNH taking the game by a score of 5-2.
Dennehy felt that his team didn’t capitalize on the chances that they had and that ultimately lead to the outcome of the game.
“We’ve got to capitalize on our chances. We had a lot of chances that we got nothing out of,” he said. “You could see that when they [UNH] got their chances they ended up in the back of the net.”
Warriors to Battle Black Bears for Third Time in Four Seasons; Buses to Ship Fans to Orono.
With the conclusion of its regular season, the Merrimack men’s ice hockey team is slated for a trip to Maine on Saturday for the Opening Round of the Hockey East Playoffs. The No. 11 seeded Warriors are slated to take on the No. 6 seeded Black Bears at Alfond Arena for the third time this season, with puck drop coming at 7:07 pm.
Although the games will be televised locally on WBIN, the athletic department is offering a special package to see the game live. As has been the trend in recent seasons, Merrimack will provide transportation to and from the game. For $5, students get a bus ride to and from Maine, admission to the game, a free t-shirt, and a pregame party with food in Maine. The bus will return to Merrimack at the conclusion of the game.
“We’re trying to create a home field advantage,” Pat Spiegel, Director of Marketing and Ticketing told The Beacon. “At the end of the day the goal is to create a fun atmosphere. It’s all about making everything fun for the students. We’re not trying to break the bank and make it expensive for them, we just want it to be a fun experience. It’s all about the student experience and enhancing that. That’s what we’re all about.”
Merrimack previously played Maine in both the 2011 and 2012 Hockey East Quarterfinals. The Warriors swept the Black Bears in 2011 en route to a Hockey East Tournament Final and an NCAA berth, while the Warriors lost in three games the following season.
“I think it’s a fun place to play. I think our guys are looking forward to it. It’s a new season. [We’re] zero-zero-zero,” Dennehy said.
Merrimack was swept out of the playoffs last season in the quarterfinals at Boston University. Should the Warriors pull out a difficult road win, they will advance to face No. 1 seeded and No. 2 nationally ranked Boston College for a three-game quarterfinal series.
Merrimack vs. Maine Stats:
1.) Played each other twice this year, both in Maine. Warriors lost both games 2-1 and 3-2.
2.) Battled in the 2011 HEA quarterfinals. Warriors swept both games 5-4 and 6-2.
3.) Rematched in 2012 HEA quarterfinals and lost in 3 games. The scores were 2-1 (Maine), 5-2 (Merrimack), 2-1 (Maine).
4.) Maine ranks 6th in HEA while Merrimack ranks 11th. Maine also ranks 20th nationally.
5.) Merrimack and Maine have played 6 one goal games in the past 9 meetings between the schools.